Blow winds and crack your cheeks: Kenneth Branagh to play King Lear in the West End

·2-min read
Kenneth Branagh in 2022  (Getty Images)
Kenneth Branagh in 2022 (Getty Images)

Sir Kenneth Branagh is set to direct and star in King Lear in the West End, his first stage role in eight years.

The play will open in the West End at Wyndham’s Theatre in October where it will run for 50 performances, after which it will move to The Shed’s Griffin Theatre in New York, opening the following autumn.

Fiery Angel and The Shed will co-produce the new play with the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. The rest of the cast has not yet been announced.

“I think King Lear touches on very pertinent things,” said Branagh in a 2019 interview. “First of all, a sense of contained outrage, by previously voiceless people... There’s a tremendous lack of forgiveness in King Lear as well, that is perhaps also something that our world is experiencing – a savage and judgmental and instant and violent division”.

This isn’t Branagh’s first time acting in King Lear, though it is his first time playing the titular role: in a 1990 production of Shakespeare’s 1606 play, he starred as Edgar, while Richard Briers played King Lear.

The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, which was formed in 2015, has previously presented a season of shows at the Garrick Theatre in London, between 2015 and 2016, which included The Winter’s Tale and Romeo and Juliet.

Branagh has also directed more than 20 films, and numerous plays, including The Play What I Wrote in 2001, Macbeth at the Manchester International Festival in 2013 (which he co-directed with Rob Ashford), and a 2017 production of Hamlet, which starred Tom Hiddleston. He was also nominated for a Best Director Oscar for his 1989 screen adaptation of Henry V.

Branagh last appeared on stage in 2015’s The Winter’s Tale at the Garrick Theatre (which he also co-directed), where he starred as Leontes, alongside Judi Dench, who played Paulina.

Recently Branagh has starred as Boris Johnson in This England, Sky’s drama about the pandemic, and as Hercule Poirot in a 2022 film adaptation of Death on the Nile. Next, the 62-year-old actor is starring in Christopher Nolan’s film, Oppenheimer, and is directing and starring again as Poirot in the forthcoming film A Haunting in Venice, a reimagining of Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party.

King Lear opens on October 31. More information about tickets, which go on sale on June 5, can be found here.